Another Valentine’s Day looms, and along with it comes an enormous amount of pressure — even if you have been fortunate enough to find love. Thanks to the slew of expectations, the holiday tends to place stress and anxiety on our romantic partners to not disappoint.
Those who eschew the Hallmark holiday might consider themselves fiscally fortunate: Consumer spending for Valentine’s Day this year is expected to hit $18.2 billion, which is actually considerably less than last year’s record-high spending of $19.7 billion, according to a survey from the National Retail Foundation.
After all, according to consumer marketing, the gifts you exchange reflect how well you and your partner know each other. Plus, we all know that it stinks to receive what you feel is a lame gift when you’ve gone all-out to please your partner.
As such, buying into the hype of Valentine’s Day can damage more than just your wallet. A 2004 Arizona State University study revealed more breakups tend to happen in the weeks before and after February 14 than during other times of year — especially among couples with existing problems. Why? Failure to please your partner on this day of all days may magnify all those little issues that have been swept under the rug. It could even be the last straw.
“Hallmark should stop producing Valentine’s Day cards. This would save relationships,” says Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, New York City-based therapist and author of “The Q&A Dating Book,” “Love Lessons From Bad Breakups” and “The Complete Marriage Counselor.” “There’s way too much pressure put on this manufactured holiday. It’s impossible to live up to the expectations foisted on us by the media.”
When you’re first dating, the emotional pressure you can put on yourself or your significant other to meet Valentine’s Day expectations can affect your relationship — but only if you let it. To stave off stress, begin with a low-key conversation about how you’d like to spend the day, says Amatenstein.
“The most important thing is that the two of you can compromise on a way to handle the day that works for both of you,” she says. “Sometimes one partner doesn’t care at all, while to the other person Valentine’s Day feels like the be-all and end-all. Agree on how you want to handle it: a romantic dinner, going away overnight or skipping it entirely and doing something romantic on a day that has personal relevance for the two of you.”
Valentine’s Day can also put a damper on things if you’re longtime partners or married. If you aren’t in sync, Valentine’s Day can either be a celebration of your relationship or a huge letdown, depending on the expectations you place on what comes of the day.
“In daily life romance often falls by the wayside, and Valentine’s Day is the one day that is supposed to make up for a year of neglect,” says Amatenstein. “Then again, it can be an opportunity to show your partner that you love him or her in a bit of a special way.”
Communication is key. Instead of letting unsaid desires build up to a big disappointment, talk to one another before the big day about how you’d like to spend it. And decide how you’d like to insert a little romance into your life on a regular basis, so the Hallmark holiday doesn’t take on oversize importance, Amatenstein recommends.
In prepping for this conversation, she recommends avoiding criticism and offering gentle praise instead. After all, romance must be inspired.
What Do YOU Think?
What do you usually expect to happen on Valentine's Day? Do you ever find yourself disappointed when the day comes? Do you and your partner typically discuss what you want to do on Valentine's Day or do you allow yourself to be surprised? Let us know in the comments section!